He said he would be “back” and he is. And the best news about the 5th edition of the Terminator movie franchise is, as I say in my video review (watch above), that Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, older, cornier, friendlier and, did I say older?
Much is made of the fact that this Terminator is slower at the gait (“I’m old, not obsolete” he snarls), and watching him in action here I found myself trying to play the game of ‘spot the stuntman’ whenever Arnold makes a move. But he’s not the problem here. A convoluted time travel plot tends to erase whatever we had invested in this story and these characters over the past three decades, throwing everything up in the air and seeing where it lands. Writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier use a lot of exposition to explain why this crew is zipping around back and forth through time in order to save the day in 2024 where the film opens with what is left of the human resistance, led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), finally beginning to win the war against Skynet’s machines who have ruled since the nuclear disaster 30 years earlier wiped out three billion people. But Skynet still has a plan as they have figured out how to play with time and create altered memories and situations that will have killed heroic Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) before she could give birth to son, John. When Connor gets wind of it he sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 (where the series began with James Cameron’s classic first film) to protect Sarah. But things aren’t what he expected. The past has been fiddled with and the Terminators are ready for him. Enter Arnold, whose killing machine persona isn’t as tough anymore. There’s more emphasis on the warm and fuzzy relationship he has with Sarah for whom he has served as a guardian since she was 9. Believe it or not she even calls him ‘Pops’ now. Who knew Schwarzenegger would turn into Walter Brennan?
At any rate, of course all hell breaks loose and the action, though wildly derivative of other Terminator movies (and just about everything else — how many times is Hollywood going to wreak havoc on the Golden Gate Bridge? Does that thing have an agent or something?), it’s still done very competently under the guidance of director Alan Taylor. The whole thing though gets so confusing and it is hard to trust a movie that tries to justify turning the Terminator storyline on its ear with a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that is just plain confusing.
The problem I have had in the past with this franchise, and all its imitators, is that no matter what you do you can’t kill these things. It’s fantasyland and so repetitive it gets deadly dull after a while. So thank god for the explosions to wake you up. And for Arnold, who introduces a toothy smile (played for effect repeatedly) and several new catch-phrases trying to emulate his immortal “I’ll be back” (which is also back by the way). Oscar winner J.K. Simmons is also around briefly to liven things up, but the film overall feels like a greedy attempt to set up the franchise for another endless trilogy of movies. Schwarzenegger playing the Terminator when he’s near 80? Perish the thought , guys. But here’s an idea for you. Why not send him waaaaaaaay back in time to battle those Jurassic World dinosaurs in the next one?
Paramount opens the film, a Skydance production, on July 1. David Ellison and Dana Goldberg produced. Do you plan to see it? Let us know what you think.